Saulieu 1855 - Paris 1933
François Pompon, a famous animal sculptor, was born in Saulieu in May 9th 1855. The training he received in Dijon in 1870 at the School of Fine Arts and then in Paris at the Arts Décoratifs in 1875 and the artistic context of the time encourage him to devote his work to portrait.
As an excellent practitioner he was hired by the most important sculptors of the time : Dampt (1885), Mercié (1888), Falguière (1890), Rodin (from 1890 and whom he became the workshop foreman in 1893), Saint-Marceaux (1890 to 1914).
In 1906, Pompon started to pull away from the human figure to devote himself to animals depiction. Interest he owed to one of his professor, Pierre Rouillard, a great animal sculptor. He found his models of domestic animals in summer, at the farm and in barnyards in the country and of wild and exotic animals in winter, at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. On his portable easel he modeled directly, in clay, the chosen animal that he would rework later in the studio.
François Pompon said : 'It's the movement that defines the shape, what I tried to render is the sense of movement. At the Jardin des Plantes, I follow the animals when they walk...What is interesting is the animal moving". I make the animal with almost all the ornaments and then I progressively remove in order to keep the essential". The expressive simplification of the shapes is close to the Japanese aesthetic. Pompon removed the accessory in order to better transcribe volume and movement.
His friends René Demeurisse, a young painter, the critic Robert Rey and Bourdelle advised him to work a larger scale. His life-sized Ours blanc had a great success and made Pompon famous at the Salon d'Automne in 1922.